Father Kevin Reflection – December 10, 2017

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Respect Life

I want to get the date (and thoughts) into your schedules and prayers for Advent. As last week, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8th, let’s not experience this event in theory. In an answer to these prayers, please plan to join us next month (again) at the State Capitol in Pierre as we witness Respect of Life in Prayer, Singing and Fellowship.
The South Dakota Right to Life will be planning the event for Sunday, January 21st. (As usual, a bus will be scheduled to pick up those who would like to have this convenience to travel down to Pierre.) Members of surrounding parishes will be invited in joining us as well.

During this Advent Season, come and visit the church in a Holy Hour with Our Lord held before the Blessed Sacrament. Pray a Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for the success of this coming year in witnessing the Gospel of Life. (And, storm heaven and earth to end our nation’s culture of death.)

This event bridges the Feasts we celebrate – the Immaculate Conception (December 8) and the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego (December 9), the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), Christmas (December 25), Holy Innocents (December 28), Holy Family (December 31), Mother of God (January 1) as well as the Epiphany (January 7) and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (January 8)…ALL THESE FEASTS GIVING CELEBERATION AND WITNESS TO NEW LIFE TO HUMANITY!

Let us pray to Mary, the Mother of God (under her title Our Lady of Guadalupe) to intercede for us through her Divine Son for a return to respect for ALL life in our country.

This Advent, may we make reparation for all the lives lost in this nation to abortion and pray that parents may be conscious of their calling as they share in God’s creative power. We also pray that those who have acted against human life experience forgiveness.

A possible theme for prayer this year: “Let us bow down in UNISON across the nation before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration and Reparation for the sins against the lives of our innocent unborn and helpless ones.”

Father Kevin’s Reflection – December 3, 2017

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“Happy New Year” and Happy Advent!

I hope and pray you had a wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Now we begin the Christmas rush which, of course, began with the famous “black Friday” shopping extravaganza! Fortunately for us, as Catholics, we do not need to be caught up in the entire extravaganza if we truly enter into the meaning of the Seasons of Advent and Christmas.

What is Advent? It is a time to wait, watch, hope and pray! (You may be seeing this reality for those who have young children. They see the Christmas tree going up. They see the lights and garland being brought in from the garage / basement / attic. They know something special is coming soon…(and, they are becoming more and more excited…until they can’t wait any longer!) Waiting is something we may not like to do, but we are well experienced with waiting. As little children we can’t wait until we are old enough to go to school with our older brothers and sisters. Once in school, we can’t wait until we make our First Penance and First Holy Communion. Then we can’t wait until we hit junior high to be with the older kids, and once we are there we can’t wait until we are in 8th Grade. Once in 8th Grade we can’t wait until we graduate and start high school and once in high school we can’t wait until we begin sports, clubs, and travel…and we can’t wait until we are Confirmed. We can’t wait to turn 16 years old because we can’t wait until we can drive…and then we can’t wait to own that first car. (We usually can wait to receive the bill for the car and insurance though!) Once in the second half of high school we can’t wait for graduation and to go to college and once in college we can’t wait to get involved in all kinds of activities. We can’t wait again to graduate and move onto either graduate school, a religious vocation or a great job.

In today’s society, once again, we already look forward to that next job because we do not like the first one. Shortly thereafter, we can’t wait to have our own apartment, can’t wait to find the right person to marry and once married we can’t wait to buy our first house, have children and buy a bigger house. Then we can’t wait for our children to start school, make their First Penance, First Communion, multiple graduations, move on their own, get a job, marry and have our grandchildren. Once we have grandchildren we can’t wait for them to come and visit and after a short time into that visit we can’t wait for them to go home and our own house to be quiet again!

It seems we do have an attitude that we “can’t wait” for things, and this Season of Advent calls us to wait, watch, hope and pray. In the business of our daily lives and the added pressures of all of the Christmas rush, please take time to wait. I do not mean to wait in line to check out at the store, but to wait in silent prayer with the Lord. Come to the Adoration Chapel, come sit in church or take some time in your favorite chair beside the Christmas tree and spend some time with the One Whose Birthday we are preparing to once again celebrate – our Savior, Christ the Lord and King of kings. Wait with Him. Watch for Him. Hope in Him and Pray in dialogue with Him. We wait for the Great Mystery coming to us as a vulnerable, fragile, little baby. May God bless you, Our Mother Mary watch over you and intercede for you, always.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 26, 2017

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God Being “All in All”

Hopefully you remember some of what I wrote last week concerning the parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus is not only the Shepherd, but he comes into the world as one of the sheep. He calls us to us when we are lost…using our own language and sounds. He gets us out of the weeds and leads us home…if we want to follow Him.

This week we celebrate the end. The end of the year of grace of 2017. We celebrate the end of this world and look forward to the real world in eternal life. We celebrate the reality of God being “all in all”.

The circles of the cosmos and of history are now distinguished. The gift of freedom is the center of the created (us) as well as of Divine Being…and so the historical element has its own irrevocable meaning but it is not for that reason the historical element separated from the cosmic element. Ultimately, despite their differences, the two circles continue to be the one circle of being. The historical liturgy of Christendom (our worship (our play) of God given to us by God) is and always will be cosmic…without separation and without confusion…and only as such does it stand erect in its full grandeur. Christianity is uniquely new, but it does not spurn the religious quest of human history. It takes up in itself all the prevailing preoccupations of the world’s religions, and in that way it maintains a connection with them.

As I often say at weddings and funerals, we must acknowledge and accept there are different understandings of Christian communions, in our world this difference will be worked out (God is…in the end…All in all). So, as we await the King of Kings to come into the world (like the five wise virgins)…let us be united as much as we can in our common prayer. We cannot give our oil away…we may not have enough when the bridegroom comes. But, in prayer, let us work for healing, the loving transformation of broken freedom, and…yes…of painful expiation. Let our prayers have (first) Christian theologians work out the differences soon…and…for God’s sake…work to bring all of God’s creatures and creation Home.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 19, 2017

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Departure and Return

One great memory in my little life was being so lucky to be able to visit the Sistine Chapel. Looking up at the centerpiece of Michelangelo’s Creation, I always think of a quote from the 70’s: “If you love something, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.” It has much to do with this weekend’s readings (and the basis of this week’s reflection). As we remember those who have died, we consider our ultimate relationship with God.

The act of God’s being (which causes created being) is an act of freedom. In this respect, the principle of freedom is present in being itself, from its ground upward. The departure (or rather God’s free act of creation) is indeed ordered toward the return (what we recognize as death in this world). That does not now mean the rescinding of created being, but rather what we have described above. The creature (existing in its own right) comes home to itself…and this act is an answer in freedom to God’s love. It accepts creation from God as His offer of love…and thus ensues a dialogue of love…that wholly new kind of unity that love alone can create. Like in the creation of Adam from God, the being of the other (Adam) is not absorbed or abolished, but rather, in giving itself, it becomes fully itself. Here is a unity that is higher than the unity of indivisible elementary particles. This return is a “return”, but it does not abolish creation; rather, it bestows its full and final perfection. This is how Christians understand God being “all in all”.

But everything is bound up with freedom, and the creature (each of us) has the freedom to turn the positive departure of its creation around. To rupture it in the Fall: this is the refusal to be dependent…saying: “No” to the return. Love is seen as dependence and is rejected. In its place come autonomy and autarchy (self rule): existing from oneself and in oneself, being a god of one’s own making. The arch from departure to return is broken. The return is no longer desired…and ascent by one’s powers proves to be impossible.

As in previous reflection, if “sacrifice” in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization…worship now has a new aspect: the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement. The essence of worship…of sacrifice (the process of assimilation…of growth in love…and thus the way into freedom) remains unchanged. But now it assumes the aspect of healing, the loving transformation of broken freedom, of painful expiation. Worship is directed to the Other in himself, to his all-sufficiency, but now it refers itself to the Other Who Alone can extricate me from the knot that I myself cannot untie. Redemption now needs the Redeemer.

The Church Fathers saw this expressed in the parable of the Lost Sheep. For the Fathers, the sheep caught in the thorn bush and unable to find its way home is a metaphor for man in general. He cannot get out of the thicket and find his way back to God. The Shepherd who rescues him and takes him home is the Logos (the Word of God) Himself, the eternal Word, the eternal Meaning of the universe dwelling in the Son. He It is Who makes His way to us and takes the sheep onto His shoulders…that is, He assumes human nature, and as the God-Man He carries man (the creature) home to God. And so the return becomes possible. Man is given a homecoming. But now sacrifice takes the form of the Cross of Christ, of the love that in dying makes a gift of itself.

Such sacrifice has nothing to do with destruction. It is an act of new creation, the restoration of creation to its true identity. All worship is now a participation in this “Pasch” of Christ (in His “passing over” from divine to human), from death to life, to the unity of God and man. Thus Christian worship is the practical application and fulfillment of the words that Jesus proclaimed on the first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, in the Temple in Jerusalem: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (cf. Jn 12:32).

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 12, 2017

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You have to really like St. Paul this week as he speaks not only to those 2000 years ago, but to our 21st Century world, too. All too often you will hear someone out there say: “I am spiritual but not religious…or into an organized religion”. It is tempting to be attracted to such ideas because the reality of the Original Sin is so much part of our spiritual DNA. “Do you not want to be as gods…knowing for yourself good and evil.”  (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)

The philosophies of worship go off in different directions. One theory is that only philosophers…only minds qualified for higher thought…are capable of the knowledge that constitutes the “way”. Only they are capable of the ascent, of the full divinization that is redemption and liberation from finitude. For the others…for the simpler souls not yet capable of the full upward vision…there are the different liturgies that offer them a certain redemption without being able to take them to the height of the Godhead. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls (or reincarnation) often compensates for these inequalities. It offers the hope that at some time in the wanderings of existence…the point will be reached when at last we can find an escape from finitude and its torments.

For others, knowledge (in Greek: gnosis) is the real power of redemption here and therefore the highest form of our elevation…union with God. That is why conceptual and religious systems of this kind (though, individually, they are all very different) are called “Gnosticism”. In early Christianity the clash with Gnosticism was the decisive struggle for its own identity. The fascination of such views is very great; they seem so easily identifiable with the Christian message.

For example, Original Sin (so hard otherwise to understand) is identified with the fall into finitude (Armageddon), which explains why it clings to everything stuck in the vortex of finitude (death…mortality). The idea of redemption as deliverance from the burden of finitude is readily comprehensible, and so on.

In our own times, too, in a variety of forms, the fascination of Gnosticism is at work. The religions of the Far East have the same basic pattern. That is why the various kinds of teaching on redemption that they offer seem highly plausible. Exercises for relaxing the body and emptying the mind are seen as the path to redemption. They aim at liberation from finitude, indeed, they momentarily anticipate that liberation and so have salvific power.

As I have written in previous reflections, as we prepare for the end times of this liturgical year, Christian thought has taken up the idea of:  departure and a return, but, in doing so, it distinguishes the two movements from one another. Departure is not a fall from the infinite…the rupture of being; and thus, the cause of all the sorrow in the world. No, departure is first and foremost something thoroughly positive. (If you don’t believe me…look at Michelangelo’s painting of creation…it says it all.) It is the Creator’s free act of creation. It is His positive Will that the created order should exist as something good in relation to Himself, from which a response of freedom and love can be given back to Him.

Non-divine being is not, therefore, something negative in itself but, on the contrary, the wholly positive fruit of the Divine Will. It depends, not on a disaster, but on a divine decree that is good and does good.

So, as our liturgical year comes closer and closer to the end times, let’s be sure to be the wise virgins…with ample oil ready to greet Christ the King. Don’t let those who think that that can be spiritual (and not believe in organized religion), take your oil from you. This organized party…planned by the Creator for the end times…requires us to be ready to greet Him…without letting the “party poopers” and their foolishness spoil the fun.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 12, 2017

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You have to really like St. Paul this week as he speaks not only to those 2000 years ago, but to our 21st Century world too. All too often you will hear someone out there say: “I am spiritual but not religious…or into an organized religion”. It is tempting to be attracted to such ideas because the reality of the Original Sin is so much part of our spiritual DNA. “Do you not want to be as gods…knowing for yourself good and evil.”  (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)

The philosophies of worship go off in different directions. One theory is that only philosophers…only minds qualified for higher thought…are capable of the knowledge that constitutes the “way”.  Only they are capable of the ascent, of the full divinization that is redemption and liberation from finitude. For the others…for the simpler souls not yet capable of the full upward vision…there are the different liturgies that offer them a certain redemption without being able to take them to the height of the Godhead. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls (or reincarnation) often compensates for these inequalities. It offers the hope that at some time in the wanderings of existence…the point will be reached when at last we can find an escape from finitude and its torments.

For others, knowledge (in Greek: gnosis) is the real power of redemption here and therefore the highest form of our elevation…union with God. That is why conceptual and religious systems of this kind (though, individually, they are all very different) are called “Gnosticism”. In early Christianity the clash with Gnosticism was the decisive struggle for its own identity. The fascination of such views is very great; they seem so easily identifiable with the Christian message.

For example, original sin (so hard otherwise to understand) is identified with the fall into finitude (Armageddon), which explains why it clings to everything stuck in the vortex of finitude (death…mortality). The idea of redemption as deliverance from the burden of finitude is readily comprehensible, and so on.

In our own times, too, in a variety of forms, the fascination of Gnosticism is at work. The religions of the Far East have the same basic pattern. That is why the various kinds of teaching on redemption that they offer seem highly plausible. Exercises for relaxing the body and emptying the mind are seen as the path to redemption. They aim at liberation from finitude, indeed, they momentarily anticipate that liberation and so have salvific power.

As I have written in previous reflections, as we prepare for the end times of this liturgical year, Christian thought has taken up the idea of:  departure and a return, but, in doing so, it distinguishes the two movements from one another. Departure is not a fall from the infinite…the rupture of being; and thus, the cause of all the sorrow in the world.   No, departure is first and foremost something thoroughly positive. (If you don’t believe me, look at Michelangelo’s painting of creation…it says it all.)  It is the Creator’s free act of creation. It is His positive Will that the created order should exist as something good in relation to Himself, from which a response of freedom and love can be given back to Him. Non-divine being is not, therefore, something negative in itself but, on the contrary, the wholly positive fruit of the Divine Will. It depends, not on a disaster, but on a divine decree that is good and does good.

So, as our liturgical year comes closer and closer to the end times, let’s be sure to be the wise virgins with ample oil ready to greet Christ the King. Don’t let those who think that that can be spiritual (and not believe in organized religion) take your oil from you. This organized party, planned by the Creator for the end times, requires us to be ready to greet Him without letting the “party poopers” and their foolishness spoil the fun.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 5, 2017

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Last week we celebrated All Saints Day … All Souls Day … to remind us of the end of this world and the beginnings of this New World to come.  In this world we celebrate a departure and a return.   When it comes to the end things (in theology it is the fourth year dread class called: Eschatology)

As we read in this week’s Gospel, we need to know our place.   No matter who we are from a worldly point of view … we are all in the same lifeboat … equal before God.   Before attempting to explain this in more detail, we must take note of what God is preparing for us, and in many respects more important … the reality of His World, possibility lying hidden in the pattern of departure and return.

Christianity has a great advantage over man-made religions and philosophies that are out there (as St. Paul addresses in the second reading).   There is this sense of doom (or senselessness).   It is found in large parts of the non-Christian cults and religions.   This kind of flight (or departure) by which a non-divine being makes its appearance is seen … not as a going out … but as a falling down.    A kind of “rainfall” from the heights of the divine … and by the laws of falling … it hurtles into ever greater depths, farther and farther into remoteness from God.   This means that non-divine being is itself, as such, fallen being.   (In other words, mankind in our nature and experience knows there is an Original Sin in our spiritual DNA.)

Finitude (or Armageddon)  is already a kind of sin, something negative, which has to be saved by being brought back into the infinite.   And so the journey back – the return – begins when the fall is arrested in the outer depths, so that now the arrow points upward.   In the end the “sin” of the finite, of not-being-God, disappears … and in that sense God becomes “all in all”.

The way of return means redemption … and redemption means liberation from finitude … which is the real burden of our existence.   So the general understand of worship (no matter the “religion”), then, has to do with the movement … turning around.   It is the sudden awareness that one has fallen, like the prodigal son’s moment of remorse (cf.  Luke 15:15-32), when he looks back to where he has come from.   According to many of these philosophies … knowledge and being … coincide, and so this new view of the beginning is already an ascent back toward it.   This general worship (in the sense of the looking up to what is before and above all being) is … of its very nature … knowledge.    And as knowledge … this worship is: movement, return, redemption.

Hopefully … from all this … you come to know why we must celebrate with heaven and earth all those who “have made it” and those who seek it (that is our celebration of All Saints and our remembrance of All Souls).